View over Saranda from Leukresi castle, Albania

12 Reasons to Visit Albania in 2023

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Albania is a country that many people may not have heard of, yet alone visited. However I’m a firm believer that Albania will become a tourist hot spot over the next few years.

It is the only country in Europe that received more tourists in 2021 than 2019 and that number is likely to continue to grow as more and more people discover this hidden gem.

With Croatia and Greece having a similar coastline and climate already taking the plaudits and the tourism dollars, will Albania ever catch up. If you’re considering travelling to either one of those, or any other Balkan country, I highly recommend making Albania your next destination.

Need some convincing? I list out all the reasons why you should visit Albania below.

The 12 Reasons You Need to Visit Albania in 2023

Albania is affordable

Albania frequently comes out near the top of lists for the cheapest countries to travel to in Europe. Travellers form western Europe will find the prices for almost everything to be a lot cheaper than they are used to and also cheap compared to other destinations in the region.

The Albanian Lek isn’t tied to any other currency which makes almost all purchases very affordable. Good quality hotels in cities can be found for £20-30 per night ($30-45 USD), transport across the country is cheap, and food and drink at restaurants also won’t break the bank.

Albanian Lek

Albania has incredible beaches

Hugging the Adriatic to the north and the Meditteranean to the south, Albania isn’t known for its beaches unlike its neighbours Greece and Croatia. But it definitely should be!

Small towns like Ksamil have some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in Europe, and they are mostly empty. Around Saranda, there are beaches with turquoise waters with nobody else on them. Further north in Durres and Vlora, beaches are also easy to come by without the crowds.

This could be one of the best beach holidays you will ever go on.

beach Ksamil, Albania
Did you think Albania could look like this?

Albania has beautiful old towns

If history and tradition is more your thing, Albania has some beautiful old towns that seem to be unchanged for centuries. My personal favourite was Gjirokaster in the south of the country.

Built along a valley with history of warring leaders, it now sits looking over the hills, with a picturesque town centre filled with coffee shops and cute souvenir stalls lining cobbled roads.

Gjirokaster, Albania
Old town main bazaar, Gjirokaster

Albania has amazing mountains

Unknown to many, Albania is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Winter and spring will allow you to see snow capped peaks as you come in to land at the airport.

In the north, hiking is popular around Shkodër but all over the country, you’re likely to see beautiful mountains where ever you go.

Communist history

Until very recently Albania was a communist country. Under the rule of Enver Hoxha from 1941 to his death in 1985, he considered the Soviet Union not communist enough and took and extreme take to the political ideology. Nothing is more prominent to prove this than the thousands of bunkers that are dotted around the country. Built by Hoxha to prepare his country from attacks, these can be found on the streets of Tirana, on isolated mountain tops, along the coastline and everywhere in between.

For an in depth look at the communist history of Albania, check out BunkArt in Tirana so you can go inside the tunnels formerly used by the communist elite and learn more about their secret spying techniques.

A bunker in the centre of town, Saranda, Albania
This bunker is right in the centre of Saranda, two roads back from the beach

Ancient historical sites

If recent history isn’t your thing, Albania has historic sites dating back hundreds and even thousands of years. Firstly ruled by the Romans, and then the Ottomans, Albania has a mix of Christian and Islamic history that has intertwined over the years.

There’s no better place to see this history than Butrint National park, close to Saranda, in the south of Albania. Containing a Roman theatre, Greek agora and Grand Basilica, there really isn’t a better place to get to understand Albania through the ages.

Butrint National Park, Albania Dan
Standing in the Roman theatre

Incredible and cheap food

Albanian cuisine isn’t big on the world stage but local Albanian fare is very traditional and has flavours that aren’t found many other places. One of my favourite meals was a tasting plate of shapkat, sarma, laropit. qahi and qifqi (picture below) which gave me the chance to try a little bit of everything.

Groceries are a lot cheaper than in western Europe for good quality in local supermarkets, and smaller fruit and vegetable markets also provide excellent quality for an excellent price if you choose to cook where you stay.

Restaurants in Albania are also very affordable and can be very good quality. Seafood is popular, as are pasta dishes being so close to Italy. I once ordered a steak meal with a beer, starter and a raki to finish at a seaside restaurant and it came to under £20. And this was the most expensive meal I had in Albania.

Gjirokaster, Albania
Traditional Albanian food

Albanian coffee culture similar to Italy

Being so close to Italy, coffee culture has seeped across the Adriatic and is a major part of everyday life in Albania. Seeing old men sit outside cafes with an espresso chain smoking is still a common sight. Espresso coffee can be found everywhere from basic stalls with a basic machine, to cafes with a variety of different flavours available.

One of the best coffees I have ever had (yes I know that is a big claim!) was from the Tirana bus station from a small stall. I ordered and espresso from through the open window and paid 80LEK. The miniature shot of espresso came in a small paper cup but it was truly delicious. I’ve recommended this stall to other people and they agree with how good the coffee is! Try it for yourself!

Isn’t dominated by tourists (yet)

One of the main reasons to visit Albania and not one of the other more popular countries in the region is for its lack of tourists.

With the lack of tourists comes lack of tourist infrastructure but that shouldn’t put anybody off as it is still easy to travel around. You won’t find tourist shuttles buses and tour buses here, but local buses provide a great opportunity to visit parts of the country you wouldn’t normally get to see.

There are few large resorts and hotels and it’s unlikely you’ll find mass groups of western tourists on the beaches or city centres. Couples and small families from eastern Europe dominate the scene with backpackers and digital nomads (slowly) becoming more frequent.

The smaller beach at Saranda, Albania
The smaller beach at Saranda

Easy to travel with good public transport

Public transport is cheap and easy to use in Albania. Local minibuses run all over the country with their destination prominently shown in the windscreen so you know exactly where they are going. Trips of under a couple of hours won’t cost more than 500LEK and even a long distance bus of 6 hours from Tirana to Saranda cost 1500LEK or about €14.

Although there is no Uber yet, local taxis in major cities offer a fair price and are still run out of taxi stands or corners where taxi drivers like to congregate for their coffee and cigarettes.

Very few drivers speak English in my experience, but with the correct pronunciation of your destination, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting where you need to go!

Albania has breathtaking natural lakes and nature

I’ve already mentioned the mountains, but the lakes and other nature in Albania is another reason to visit. Lake Ohrid, on the border with North Macedonia, is a popular destination, as is Lake Bovilla and Lake Shkodër.

The Blue Eye at Saranda and other natural phenomenom around the country make for stunning day trips.

Blue Eye, Saranda, Albania

Friendly people

Despite the stereotype that eastern Europeans aren’t friendly and are very stone faced, I found Albanians very friendly. Everyone I dealt with was always happy to help if I was lost at a bus station, or looking for somewhere to eat with waiters happy to explain some of the food on menus I wasn’t sure about. My AirBnB hosts were lovely as well. Like every country, I’m sure there are some bad eggs, but overall, I didn’t experience them.

And one extra one….. Albania as a future digital nomad hotspot?

Although not quite there yet, I would expect Albania to become a digital nomad hotspot in the coming years for all the reasons I’ve listed here. With cheap accomodation, affordable and healthy food, beautiful scenery and desirable weather, it ticks all of the boxes that many digital nomads look for. A lack of suitable coworking spaces may hold some back at the moment, with a scarcity of them outside of the capital Tirana.

Despite this, I have seen many people recommend Albania as a digital nomad hotspot on various forums and blogs, and from being a relatively unknown country a few years ago, it is likely to bloom in the coming years. If you don’t like the crowds, get in quick!

Other Digital Nomad Guides

Conclusion

Albania is a beautiful country located on the Adriatic sea with an abundance of history, nature and friendly people. Whilst it is often overlooked for it more popular European neighbours, Albania is actually a fantastic place to visit. I hope these reasons to visit Albania will encourage you to go before this little travelled corner of the continent experiences its well deserved traveller boom in the coming years!

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